Report Card: Army vs. Tulane

The Army Black Knights gave up an opening touchdown drive to the Tulane Green Wave but then scored 45 unanswered points in front of a homecoming crowd of 31,235 at Michie Stadium. It was Army's largest margin of victory over a Division I opponent since a beating Boston College 49-7 in 1995. The impressive victory improves the Black Knights record to 2-3.




Trent Steelman completed all three of his passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. Steelman only pass of the first half was 5-yard completion to Raymond Maples during the final touchdown drive of the first half. Steelman rolled out and threw a pass in the flat to Maples, who made a nice adjustment to the ball. Tulane opened the second half selling out on run support in a futile attempt to stop Army's rushing attack early in third quarter. Trent used a nice play action fake to throw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Davyd Brooks for his first touchdown pass of 2011.

Steelman completed his last pass, a short pass off a waggle action roll out to backup B-back Larry Dixon. Dixon demonstrated his speed in gaining 25 yards on the touchdown drive. After completing no passes last week Steelman was perfect.
The Black Knights rushed for 353 yards, averaged 5.7 yards per carry and scored five rushing touchdowns. For the third consecutive week A-back Raymond Maples set a personal career single game high record for rushing yards. Maples ran 15 times for 141 yards and scored a touchdown. Over the last three weeks Maples is running to daylight, demonstrating good acceleration in the hole and is now finishing his runs to break tackles and pick up extra yards. Steelman ran eight times for 54 yards and scored two touchdowns. Trent did an excellent job reading the defense and distributing the ball. He did commit one turnover after fumbling a snap.

B-Back Jared Hassin (6 carries, 20 yards) was hit on the opening drive of the second half and he fumbled the ball 20 feet into the air. Plebe B-back Larry Dixon (6 carries, 30 yards, first career touchdown) had his best game of his young career. C-back Malcolm Brown (35 yards, 7 yards per carry) ran well and made a nice grab on a wayward pitch well behind him to avoid a turnover on what ended up being a touchdown drive. Plebe Terrence Baggett, off a nice debut at Ball State, earned the start at C-back. Baggett rushed four times for just five yards. He dropped a perfect pitch from Steelman that guard Frank Allen alertly recovered. The blowout win allowed Army to play a number of underclassmen. Kelechi Odocha scored his first touchdown and third string B-back Hayden Tippett (37 yards, 5.3 yards a carry) ran well late in game. On Odocha's touchdown run, plebe running back Stephen Fraser, recently promoted from the JV for his outstanding play, had a nice block to give Kelechi the edge. Army's rebuilt offensive line was outstanding. Only the two fumbles kept this grade from being an A+.
The Green Wave quarterback Ryan Griffin entered the game with 30 career touchdowns and having thrown for 4,659 yards. Against Army, Tulane's quarterbacks completed 10-of-20 passes for just 74 yards and threw two interceptions. The Army staff made changes to the Double Eagle flex. They played a lot of cover 4 during the game which is the "nickel defense" with 5 defensive backs. They still used the flex, stunts and twists up front but they had A.J. Mackey line up more over the guard.

Tulane's offensive line had struggled protecting the quarterback all season and couldn't handle the quickness of Army's flex front which recorded 5 sacks for a loss of 35 yards. Plebe Colin Linkul who hadn't played since being injured in the opener posted two key sacks. Linkul is a direct admit with a tremendous upside. He didn't start playing football till his sophomore year in high school. Kyler Martin (3 tackles, 1 sacks) showed why he's a hurdler on the track team when he leaped over a blocker to sack Griffin. Clayton Keller and Jacob Drozd both recorded their first sacks of their Army careers. Boundary cornerback Josh Jackson (3 tackles, 1 int.) was terrific in coverage and returned an interception 36 yards setting up an easy Army touchdown. Backup safety Ty Shrader picked off second string quarterback D.J. Ponder's only pass attempt.
Army changed its defensive lineup up front moving away from having A.J. Mackey lineup as a nose tackle in the traditional double eagle flex position covering both A gaps to playing more over the guard. Andrew Rodriguez (3 tackles) moved from whip linebacker to quick end, Zac Watts flipped from quick end to defensive end on the other side and Nate Combs (3 tackles) started at whip linebacker.

The new look defense had an inauspicious debut as the front over-pursued on the second play of the game allowing a 67-yard run to set up a walk in touchdown run the next play. After that first series the defense settled down and kept Tulane out of the end zone as the Green Wave offense imploded with multiple turnovers, penalties and mistakes. Tyler Dickson (8 tackles) did a solid job at Mike linebacker replacing the injured Justin Trimble. Plebe Geoffrey Bacon didn't start but saw his first extensive playing time at linebacker leading the Black Knights in tackles with nine. Bacon demonstrated the speed and ability to read and react quickly that made him the defensive MVP at USMAPS last year. Safety Thomas Holloway (4 tackles) recovered a key fumble.
Army finally made a field goal as Alex Carlton hit one from 23 yards. Chris Boldt boomed a 64-yard punt and averaged 55 yards on his two attempts. Josh Jackson had no room on his three punt returns. Scott Williams had a 25 yard kickoff return. Coverage teams allowed only 17.5 on kick off return and just one yard on two long punts.
Rich Ellerson, Chris Smeland and Payam Saadat reconfigured the defense after the Ball State debacle. The Cover 4 scheme especially helped field cornerback Lamar Johnson Harris, who has struggled this year, underneath and in the flats. It was a tremendous game plan. Ian Shields' rushing offense keeps rolling along and was finally able to get the passing game to click. Talented plebes like Colin Linkul, Geoffrey Bacon, and Jacob Drozd will continue to get the opportunity to play on Saturday if they produce on the practice field. Before Rich Ellerson became head coach that was rarely the case at West Point.
With their season on the brink the Army players and coaching staff responded with a tremendous effort on both sides of the ball.

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